Crazy hot sex, glamor, best of beauty, and more beautiful and bankable than ever; these suggestive words make up the vast majority of headlines on women’s magazine covers. Those words are then taken, and centered on some of the most attractive women in society who are often depicted in a seductive and promiscuous manner. The message that these magazines portray is in great contrast to the beauty that their articles promise; this is what society wants from its women. Rather than providing women with any sort of content or depth, these magazines are painting a picture in which health, beauty, and happiness are all a result of a women’s image. In other words, if you don’t meet this standard created by advertisers in order to make money, then you are not a happy and beautiful woman, a message which is greatly demoralizing to women, and thus the actual quality and content of these magazines is in all actuality the epitome of repulsive, opposed to beautiful. Based on articles and advertisements in three major women’s magazines, a woman’s value is based on an image of beauty that is sleek and sexy, and the only quality represented is that of a promiscuous woman offering sex appeal, a portrayal that is very demoralizing to the female population.
These findings were based on an in-depth examination that was done on the November issues of Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Vogue, three top selling women’s magazines. Of these three, Vogue stands out due to its ability to convey the importance of a women’s image through the means of pictures and advertisements alone. A picture is worth a thousand words, and that is certainly the case with Vogue, considering that the vast majority of this top-selling women’s magazine is composed of a variety of designer’s advertisements. In fact, the table of contents for this magazine comes after nearly one hundred pages of over-priced designer advertisements, and it is not until the latter half of this three hundred paged magazine that the articles start to come into play, so approximately two-thirds of Vogue’s actual content is that of fashion advertisements. A much more disturbing message begins to emerge as one begins to analyze these ads. Repetitively, the reader is being subjected to images of women that are so skinny that their bones are showing. These women are clothed in an array of elegant, classy, and sometimes scandalous attire. Not to mention the fact that the manner in which they hold themselves is suggestive of promiscuity, and in some cases more so than their clothing. In bold highlighted lettering the words such as beautiful, sleek, slim, sexy, and hot are used over and over again. The message is that women’s value is on the image and that image defines them as individuals. So the woman that doesn’t meet these socially accepted standards or that is older becomes a transparent ghost in our society.
Unlike its competitors, Cosmopolitan is shameless in regards to what other women’s magazines only allude to, and that is a woman’s sex appeal. More than one-third of its cover stories deal with sexual content. These articles provide such saucy information as, “crazy hot sex-and to how to be the best he’s ever had” (Clark-Flory 133). Cosmopolitan is flooded with similar content, that tells women, “don’t judge guys by the first time you have sex with them”, (Berkowitz 160) and how to “have make-up sex without the fight.” (Clark-Flory 133) This exploitive information sends an array of appalling messages. First and foremost, it is insinuating that women need to be great in bed. Or, in other words, a woman is evaluated on her capabilities of pleasing her man with sex, giving women a false disposition of how men are only looking for amazing sex. On a deeper level, this is conveying that society generally bases relationships on an extremely surface level. These articles indicate that, as a society, we aren’t looking for any depth in an individual, or quality in personal characteristics, but rather that we evaluate are preferences on this surface level that deals only with an image and one’s sexual expertise, and in the case of women they are being sexually objectified. It’s demoralizing.
In The Great Gatsby Daisy notes, “I hope she’ll be a fool—that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” (Fitzgerald 14) Essentially, she summarizes these superficial and demoralizing implications best. In regards to women’s magazines, Mary Kay Blakely touches bases on this same issue in her article “Help or Hindrance? Woman’s Magazines Offer Readers Little But Fear, Failure,” which can be found in Text and Context. She states that “judging from the headlines on the covers, the foremost concern of women today is not to grow wiser but to grow smaller” (Blakely 121). In all actuality, these magazines are a detriment to those who fall victim to their message, which serves as an injustice to women in general. In a world built off of vanity, and image, there is no firm premise for a woman to maintain a sense of self-esteem, confidence, and self-worth. “Whatever it is that makes you happy, you are about to lose it” (Blakely 121). Aging is a natural part of the human experience, but on such grounds, this concept will distil fear into women. The one thing that had been held so high, image, will be the first to go in the aging process. With that comes the fear of growing old, fear of not being beautiful, and although untrue, the fear of losing self-worth. Not only is this false testimony of what defines women a result of fear, but it causes depression that would have otherwise not been present. With a foundation built off of these beliefs, these magazines are putting women at risk of harmful underlying psychological damage. Blakeley stresses this fact in her studies of the correlation between women’s magazines and their depression when she notes that “the strongest clue Guttentag’s team of psychologists had unearthed about the reason so many women are depressed had come from a 1974 analysis of articles in women’s and men’s magazines”(Blakely 121). For any proud independent woman, this is demoralizing. It is basically depriving them of what actually defines them as women, and that’s their character traits. These articles act as deterrents, robbing women of character qualities that define them on an individual level. A foolish beauty is still a fool. All the beauty in the world couldn’t account for the depth and individuality of one woman. Far more demoralizing is the insinuation that women should be promiscuous in nature, for a more careful woman earns the merit of respect in not demonstrating risqué behavior, which is revoked by the magazine’s depiction of women. Furthermore, the sexuality promoted results in serious consequences, and it’s demoralizing due to the simple fact that it’s exploitive in itself to suggest such ideals.
When it comes to women’s magazines, the overall message insinuated within them is demoralizing to women. These magazines illustrate a falsified image in which women are being sexually objectified, and as a result, the message is that a woman’s value is based solely on this image. “This is the world we have “made up” for women, and it is a perilous place to exist” (Blakely 123) Beauty has become defined as a skinny young woman, draped in expensive clothing, and suggesting sexually immoral behaviors. This isn’t only an inaccurate message, it’s also a detrimental one. The product of this message is that of vain women, that only interact on a shallow level, and who display no real depth. It is this concept that deprives women of a firm ground on which to build their self-esteem, and as a result, leads to such emotional complications as fear and depression. This message is demoralizing because it acts as a deterrent that robs women of a certain degree of self-respect, and alludes to qualities that have serious consequences. It is for this reason that something should be done about the magazines’ approach towards their female audiences. The actual content of these messages is beyond unattractive. These magazines suggest that society wants, an image of beauty that is meant only for beautiful, young empty-headed fools that overcompensate for everything that is lacked.